There was plenty to be positive about in Bristol City’s 3-1 win against Middlesbrough last night, not least the performance of Nahki Wells.
The Bermudian has an excellent goalscoring record in the Championship but hasn’t really looked settled since signing from Burnley last January, with his form over the past few months of particular concern.
Last night he looked a different prospect completely, there was more energy, more quality in his final ball and attempts goal, and more conviction in everything he did – helping him finish a goal and an assist.
Nigel Pearson will be hoping that he sees more of this Wells during his tenure and playing him as a striker, rather than out wide as was often the case under Dean Holden, will surely help.
We’ve examined the 30-year-old stats from the 2020/21 campaign to investigate what it says about his season so far and how he can improve.
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On the surface, it’s been a good year for Wells when you stack his numbers up against many of the other players in the City squad.
In fact, no player in the squad has more goal contributions than his 13 (eight goals and four assists), while only Famara Diedhiou has outscored him this term – though it is important to factor in that he’s played more minutes than any of the Robins’ other offensive players.
He averages just 1.4 shots per game, which is disappointing generally but perhaps understandable when you take into account that’s the most in the squad bar Andreas Weimann and that City take fewer than any other side in the Championship.
An area that requires improvement, however, is his involvement in play in general. Too often, the forward goes missing in games and that’s illustrated by the stats.
We saw in last night’s game that when he’s at his best, he’s linking up with teammates, feeding them in and around the box, and popping up in dangerous positions more often – as his five touches in the Boro penalty area are evidence of.
City would love to see more of that in the last few months of the campaign.
Defensively, it’s no huge surprise that Wells ranks among the worst in the squad for tackles, interceptions, clearances, and blocks (Whoscored).
Admittedly, that’s not what the 30-year-old was brought in to do but you wonder whether that level of effort will stand under Pearson.
At Watford, the likes of Troy Deeney were important defensively as part of the high-press and counter-pressing that were often part of the 57-year-old’s tactics.
Should Pearson look to utilise a similar system with the Robins, he’ll want a striker that can do that and Wells will have to prove he’s that man to remain a key player.